Rosalind Harris: An Attitude of Altruism
A Security 500 Thought Leader Profile
The County of Ventura in southern California stretches across more than 1,413,120 square miles, and the county government buildings area alone is 3.1 million square-feet. Rosalind Harris, Manager of Facilities and Security at County of Ventura, faces the challenge of keeping employees and property safe while maintaining an open and inviting atmosphere.
“Anyone can walk in and out, so trying to put in countermeasures without the barbed wire and the barriers can be difficult,” says Harris. “We overcome these challenges by having alert and aware employees, patrolling security officers, intrusion alarms, cameras, panic alarms and more.”
Getting buy-in for these programs hasn’t been a problem, she says, as the County is an environment where an attitude of altruism is key, and most leaders are happy to discuss solutions to security challenges.
“The world is changing, and we’re all – as a country – becoming more sensitive to harmful situations,” she says. Safety and security is “a personal, innate desire of every employee, but also our executives believe in the importance of a safe workplace, and they put great emphasis on that in many ways: Funding has not been an issue; implementation has been well-supported; the CEO has established an executive committee on security to discuss and solve issues as they arise.”
When she’s looking to finance a new or expanded program, Harris presents capital plans to the County CEO and leadership. She has six main tenets for getting buy-in from leadership: Figure out what your threats are, determine your purpose in the enterprise, address low-hanging fruit first, build up employee awareness and education, put system and budget requests in a capital format so they can be financed creatively or over an extended period of time, and “put your heart behind it, because if you’re a good person with a good agenda and you understand the corporate structure you’re working in, even if (enterprise leaders) don’t agree with the total process, the sale will be easy. They want what you want, and you want what they want; it’s just an issue of articulating it in a business-appropriate format.”
Currently, the County of Ventura is served by 85 contract security officers, of which many of them live in the county, and they take a real ownership of their role and responsibility, Harris says. Many of the officers have worked on contracts for the county for 10 or 15 years, and Harris recently added training requirements and increased the county’s investment in their benefits.
“We invest in them, and they see that,” Harris says.
In fact, employee training and awareness is one facet of Harris’s program that she’s particularly proud of.
“We view our employees as an integral part of our security team because our officers can’t be every place at all times, but our employees are so attuned, so well-trained, so sensitive to security, that they notify us of situations that are potentially harmful and give us an opportunity to respond,” Harris says.
County employees must attend a mandatory basic security training session through the HR department (designed by Harris and her department), but they can also take part in any of a series of free courses provided by the security department. Over the past seven years, experts from the county’s District Attorney’s office, local law enforcement and Fire Departments, Employee Assistance Program and more have volunteered their time to teach courses on conflict resolution, de-escalation, gang violence, active shooter incidents and incident response.
“In my job, all I have to do is ask for help, and it comes. It’s just part of our culture here in Ventura,” Harris says. “These people have the same goal as I do, which is to serve the public.”
Harris grew up in Compton, California, and went to college at the University of Southern California for engineering before joining the military. “I’ve seen the best and worst in people,” she says, “and I wanted to have a better life and make sure that the people around me had a better life. I grew up with this altruistic attitude where I could serve my country and have a bigger impact. This job allows me to do it in a great way – I get to be responsible for keeping people safe, and that’s a personal reward for me.”
In her free time, Harris enjoys spending time with her three adult children, writing books, traveling, singing and playing piano. She and her husband, who also works for the County, enjoy having lunch together every day.
Annual Revenue: $2 billion
Security Budget: $4.84 million
• Threat Management
• Security Technology